How to Identify and Shop for Cull Lumber

Lumber warehouse. Wood planks and timber stacked in stacks outdoors
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Have you ever wanted to invest in a woodworking project, but you're worried about the costs? Lumber can be quite expensive, but there are plenty of ways to save money. Cut the costs of your next woodworking project by using cull lumber. Here's how to snag savings by checking the scrap bin at the home improvement store.

  • 01 of 05

    What Is Cull Lumber?

    Lumber Pile

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    Now you may be wondering what exactly is cull lumber? Cull lumber is lumber that has been pulled from inventory because it is damaged in some way or is a piece leftover from trimming. It might be warped, have a split in it, or have a chunk missing. Or, it may simply be the leftovers after they made a cut for another customer. Whatever the reason, cull lumber is cheap, cheap, and cheap.

    • Cull means to choose or select, especially when separating the preferred from the inferior. 
    • Other names for cull lumber include culled lumber or scrap bin lumber.
  • 02 of 05

    Where to Find It

    Rack of Wood

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    Look for a rack at the back of the lumber section or near the cutting area. If you don't see one there, ask an associate where it's located. If he or she has never heard of cull lumber, ask about the scrap bin.

  • 03 of 05

    Prices for Cull Lumber

    Cull lumber sign

    The Spruce / Erin Huffstetler

    You will see cull lumber sold in various ways. It may have a standard price per stick no matter the dimensions, such as 51 cents per stick. Or, it could be bundled together and sold by the bundle. You may even see a free scrap bin when they don't want to waste the effort to label and sell it.

  • 04 of 05

    How to Shop the Cull Rack


    Arne Pastoor / STOCK4B / Getty Images

    Look for wood with ​damage that would be easy to cut off or workaround. If your project doesn't need perfect pieces (such as a cat condo that's going to be covered in carpeting), you don't have to worry about blemishes, but you may not want pieces that are very warped. Then, measure to see if there are enough good board feet past the damaged area to meet your needs. When you find something that works, load it into your cart before someone else gets a chance to grab it. Cull lumber moves quickly.

    Don't see everything you need? The cull lumber inventory changes daily, so it may be worth checking back tomorrow.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Buying Tips

    Stacked Lumber

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    • Ask an associate what day(s) the business gets its lumber deliveries. This will generally be the best day to visit the cull rack. You will also be able to buy more quantities of similar pieces, such as 2x4 culls from a delivery. If you need more than one or two pieces, this is a good strategy.
    • When you see a damaged board in the regular inventory, ask if you can have it at a discount.
    • Check the cull rack every time you shop, and build up a stash of discounted 2x4s and other commonly used board sizes. If you have enough storage space for it at home, you will never get stuck paying full price for lumber for small projects.​
    • At some stores, the clerk has to ring up each piece separately, and you may be able to work a deal on multiple pieces, just ask for the price of intact board. Don't be afraid to bargain: you are saving the store time and effort while taking their scraps off its hands.